Shame I missed this. I’m not sure how I would have participated, given that I don’t speak Spanish, but I would’ve loved to add it to the L.A. Calendar.

Deep inside my writerly brain, down where my earliest memories reside, there is a voice. It speaks to me in Spanish.

 

I write in the language of Shakespeare and Steinbeck. That’s the language I was educated in, here in L.A. The language of the British Empire, of American Manifest Destiny, of California and the West.

 

But Spanish gave me my first words: mamá, agua. And it was the language on the covers of the first works of grown-up literature I held in my hands, the Guatemalan novels my immigrant father brought into our Hollywood home.

 

“Hombres de Maíz.” “El Señor Presidente.”

 

I remembered those books on Sunday as I watched dozens of immigrant families peruse stacks of the printed word in castellano at the second annual LéaLA Spanish book fair at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

 

Everywhere I turned, I found reminders of the ways Spanish and English co-exist in certain L.A. families. And of the power of Spanish to give a sense of meaning, history and beauty to the lives of those Angelenos who speak it.

 

“You see, it isn’t that hard,” Alejandro Rincon said to his teenage son in Spanish, as he read a passage from the back cover of a novel based on the story of Cain and Abel.

 

The young man mumbled a few words in English and shrugged his shoulders in a “Yeah, Dad I get it” kind of gesture.

 

Rincon, I soon found out, is a Mexico City-born construction worker and resident of Culver City. He’d brought three of his kids to LéaLA, including Carlos, his U.S. educated, English-dominant son.

 

“We brought them so they could soak up the books and think about reading their whole lives,” Rincon told me in Spanish. “My son doesn’t want to read in Spanish. But it’s important…. Because we’re Latinos. They need to know where they come from.”